TK Basics

Basics to help design your TK program

Below you’ll find some helpful information on the basics to help design your Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program as it is expanded to all 4-year-olds in California.

CDE Guidance

The California Department of Education (CDE) is regularly releasing guidance to inform the expansion of TK. You can explore their Transitional Kindergarten page to access the latest TK information and resources or contact their TK support team at [email protected].

Additional TK resources from the CDE:

Implementation Timeline

The expansion of TK will occur over a 4 year period, beginning in the 2022-23 school year. A summary of the implementation schedule is pictured and described below.

Download a PDF Version

Implementation Schedule Summary

2021-22: Planning Year

2022-23: Implementation Begins

2023-24: Implementation Continues

2024-25: Implementation Continues

2025-26: Implementation Complete

TK Basics - Implementation Schedule - TKCalifornia TK Basics - Implementation Schedule - TKCalifornia

Class Sizes and Ratios

TK is described as the first year in a two-year Kindergarten program. However, one crucial way that TK differs from Kindergarten is in lower adult-child ratio requirements.

Beginning in the 2022 school year, TK classes must have a 12:1 student to adult ratio, with a maximum average of 24 children in the classroom at each school site. One of the two adults in the classroom must be a fully certificated TK teacher. In 2023, the ratio may be reduced further to 10:1, if the Legislature appropriates additional funding.

This class size is even lower for classrooms that include “Early Enrollment” children who were born between June 2 and September 1st. Classrooms with Early Enrollment children are required to have a maximum class size of 20 students and student-teacher ratios of 10:1.

In 2025, the Legislature has committed to lowering the ratios to 10:1.

Length of Day for TK

Like Kindergarten, TK can be offered as either a full-day or a half-day program. While many districts prefer full-day schedules in order to support working families and provide more opportunities for learning for students, some districts may find it more feasible to implement the lower ratios required by TK using a half-day program.

Instructional Minutes

With regards to required minutes of instruction, TK follows the same requirements that apply to Kindergarten: 36,000 minutes per year, and 180 minutes is the minimum length of instructional time that must be offered to constitute a school day.1

Full-Day Schedules

For districts that are interested in offering full-day Kindergarten and TK, the Education Code authorizes extended-day Kindergarten / full-day Kindergarten if the local school board adopts a policy establishing an Early Primary Program. Schools may offer extended or full-day Kindergarten if both of the following conditions are met:

  1. The TK or Kindergarten program does not exceed the length of the primary school day; and
  2. The extended-day TK or Kindergarten program takes into account ample opportunity for both active and quiet activities with an integrated, experiential, and developmentally appropriate educational program.2
TK Basics - Organizing TK Classrooms in Your District - TKCalifornia

Organizing TK Classrooms in Your District

In your school district, you have the flexibility to offer TK in a configuration that best meets the needs of your student population. The following are some of the class configuration models districts have considered:

Stand-Alone TK Classroom

Many districts recognize that stand alone TK classrooms are the preferred program design, as a full classroom of 4-year-old children allows teachers to really build out a comprehensive TK program.

TK Hub

For districts that do not have a large enough TK population for every elementary school, but still want to offer stand-alone TK classrooms, some districts are taking a set of locally adjacent elementary schools and having one TK classroom at one of the schools, drawing from the adjacent catchment areas. Oftentimes, the TK student will return to their home school for the Kindergarten year or perhaps first grade.

TK / Kindergarten Combos

While combination classes are not ideal, they can be helpful in districts that are struggling with meeting the staffing and facilities needed to expand TK. Districts or schools are permitted to create TK/Kindergarten combo classes under the following guidelines:

California State Preschool Program (CSPP) / TK Combos

This configuration may also help districts manage staffing and facilities needs while serving all TK-eligible children. As with TK/Kindergarten combination classes, the more stringent classroom requirements apply. This means that a CSPP/TK combination class would be required to follow Title 5 regulations, including an 8:1 student to adult ratio, bi-annual assessments using the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), and CSPP facilities standards unless exempted.

Head Start / TK Combos

As with TK/Kindergarten and CSPP/TK combination classes, the more stringent classroom requirements apply. School districts combining TK and Head Start classrooms would need to meet Head Start requirements which include child-teacher ratios of 10:1, maximum class sizes of 20, use of the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) assessment tool, and family engagement requirements.

Regardless of how TK classrooms are designed in your district, it is important for school staff to talk with parents about the TK approach in your district, and the ways in which that approach will meet the needs of their young learners.

TK Basics - Enrollment and Registration - TKCalifornia TK Basics - Organizing TK Classrooms - TKCalifornia

Enrollment & Registration

It is currently optional for parents and guardians to decide whether they wish to enroll their children in Kindergarten and TK.3 Parents are not required to enroll their children in school until age six, which school districts usually interpret as first grade. It is, however, required for “each elementary or unified school district to offer Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes for all children eligible to attend,” according to the CDE’s Universal Prekindergarten FAQs.

Recruitment & Enrollment

Districts generally begin recruitment for TK when they begin their outreach for Kindergarten enrollment. As TK expands to serve younger children, districts may wish to partner with media and community partners to ensure that information on expanded TK eligibility reaches parents in the neighborhood.

Enrollment packets for TK generally include information similar to that of Kindergarten, and are augmented with materials such as:

Enrollment Projections

School districts will need to determine the likely enrollment of their elementary school population over the next several years, as TK gradually expands to serve all 4-year-olds. Projected enrollment figures will be needed in order to plan for staffing and facilities needs. Overall, the number of 4-year-olds in California is projected to decline; however, some areas may see increases as families move inland from higher-cost coastal areas. Local considerations, such as new planned housing developments or major new employers, proximity to possible natural disasters (such as wildfires), and cost of housing in your district will impact whether your district sees an increase or decrease in potential TK students in the upcoming years.

Three common forms of enrollment projections are:4

Different methodologies will produce different enrollment projections. Schools should assess their risk tolerance level and if a particular funding source requires a particular enrollment projection when they decide which methodology to employ.

TK Data Collection

As of July 1, 2023, Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) should submit the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) grade level to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) for those students enrolling in a TK program. This includes Early Enrollment children who are not yet accruing Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding. Learn more ›

Note: Information on this page was provided by School Services of California Inc.

1 California State Education Code sections 46117 and 46201.
2 California State Education Code sections 8970-8974.
3 California Education Code Section 48200.
4 School Services of California Inc. Implementing Universal TK–The Nuts and Bolts. Webinar (November 9, 2021).